What is your most memorable Independence Day celebration?
Mine was a day that will live on in family folklore. My husband, Mart, my 10-year-old daughter, and I drove about an hour to my parents’ adopted hometown. We love that place, with its town square with historic buildings, shops, restaurants, and sense of patriotism. Independence Day is properly celebrated there with a ceremony and music, parade, local vendor market, and fireworks show. Flags decorate the buildings, and white crosses with veterans’ names line the streets.
After eating dinner at my parents’ house, we packed a cooler with drinks and snacks, loaded the cars with fold-up chairs, and set out for the fireworks show. Dad had heard about a new vantage point, away from the crowds, that was going to be the best spot ever.
One of his friends had told him, “There’s a great view up there, and nobody knows about it.”
So, we set up our chairs on a hilltop in the Baptist church parking lot. The field where the fireworks would be shot off was well below us, about ½ mile away.
In a few minutes, another family set up nearby. We shared our bug spray with them.
As we sat there, we realized that the trees in front of us were pretty tall. Would the fireworks clear them? Surely they would. Fireworks go high in the air, right?
To pass the time, Mom took my girl to play on the church playground for a while. We also shared stories, told jokes, and played games.
Finally, it began to get darker, and we knew it wouldn’t be long now. The first blast sounded, and up came the fireworks. We saw a little bit of color behind the trees and then it was gone.
That was just the warm-up; once they got going, the fireworks would go higher. Right?
We waited for the next wave. And waited. And waited.
Nothing. No sizzle. Just fizzle.
With a sideways grin, Mart said, “Well, I really enjoyed the firework.”
We laughed. We joked with the other family. But we all had two questions on our minds: Was that it? And would we be able to see the fireworks when they actually did get going?
After a while, we gathered up our stuff, loaded it into the car, and walked down into town to see if anything was happening. A few other people were milling around the square. They had those same two questions. You could see it in their eyes.
There was a lot of laughing and joking. I thought of the poor fireworks person. What a stressful job it would be if your fireworks neither fired nor worked.
Mart took our daughter off in search of ice cream while my parents and I sat on a concrete planter outside the bookstore.
It was starting to get late, and we had an hour’s drive ahead of us. Should we give up and go home?
Then suddenly! You know that sound that fireworks make when they climb in the air? We heard that sound and then kaboom! Light and colors and pops and sizzles. Then another climb: purple and white. Then more: green, red, blue. All kinds of colors in all kinds of shapes. And we had a great view.
The show went on and on, making up for the delayed start. Because we knew traffic pouring onto the square would be terrible, we decided to leave a few minutes early. We said our good-byes to my parents and took a back way out of town, down a couple of dark, rural roads.
We made another turn in the deserted darkness and shazam! Right above our car, a huge set of green fireworks exploded, filling the car with a greenish glow, hanging in the air for a split second before burning out on the way back to earth. All three of us said, “Wow!”
It was like having our own private firework. And it’s hard to top that.
As my mom’s pastor said this past Sunday, the whole point of a July 4th celebration is not marking the actual date but marking Independence Day.
Despite the fact that this is a tough, painful time in our nation’s history, I’m grateful to God that I get to live in a country that has an Independence Day. I’m thankful for the men and women who, with courage, faith, and sacrifice, founded, fought for, and continue to serve it in whatever capacity. I’m grateful for many other things as well, including the freedom to make it better. And the opportunity to celebrate it in a little town with my loved ones under a night sky filled—or not—with fireworks.
How will you celebrate Independence Day today?